Loitering in Tuscan Alleys and Back Country Vineyards

Ok I haven’t gotten around to blogging in a while so this post will include the last due settimane.  Whoa I mean the last two weeks.  Sorry. My Italian just slipped out there.  You’ll have to forgive me it’s getting really hard to remember how to speak, much less write, English.  I think I’ve been eating too much olive oil and nutella.  I’ve noticed myself using wild hand gestures and having inexplicable urges to buy scarfs.  I’m scared.  I think I am suffering from Sportscenter withdrawal and my diet is dangerously low in brats and ketchup.  If it weren’t for the American Flag I have hanging majestically in my room I think I would have already gone off the deep end.

Anyway its February 20th now.  Rewind to Monday Feb 6th.  I had just finished submitting my last blog post and away I went to class.  Walking to class I passed two people walking two four legged animals on leashes.  Pretty standard normal occurrence right?  Well turns out the aforementioned four legged animals were pigs, and these pigs wore cute little pig sweaters.  I’m literally at a loss for words on this matter so I’m just going to leave it at that and until I see that again assume that that’s not necessarily normal here.   Wow that was a lot of thats in that sentence.

The rest of the week was normal. No pigs, walking, flying or otherwise.  Friday morning I got up at six to catch a bus to Siena for the weekend.  There was a crew of seven of us going through the school sponsored bus tour of Tuscany.  Well there was a whole bus of people but seven of us knew each other well.  Whatever. You get it.  So within the last 26 years there have been two major snowstorms in this area of the world.  And just so happens they fell within the span of two weeks.  So on our way to Montipulciano, where we were going to do some wine tasting and site seeing, we had to turn around because the roads were getting too treacherous.  Which is too bad because it’s supposed to be a really cool place with some of the best wine around.

 So we headed to Siena where our hotel for the weekend was located.  Yes a hotel! Not a hostel.  It was a nice place but I ended up sharing a room with two dudes and a rather prosperous colony of ants.  Yea there were a lot of little black specs crawling on the floor, so that was a little unnerving. But they’re only ants.  Better than spiders or scorpions or rats or pigs for that matter.  Anyways so our trip was slightly jumbled because of the weather but we were able to get a tour of Siena later in the afternoon.  We had several hours to spare before that so we walked to the center of town to check out the sites.  There is a big central square, very beautiful and impressive, and old looking with a really tall tower and other red stone buildings and what not.  Since we had a couple hours to kill and it was cold and we didn’t want to walk back to the hotel we dawned our Peroni jackets and loitered in a Tuscan alley for two hours.  Kinda sketchy but our options were slim.  Then it was tour time.

Twice every summer the townspeople pack the square and witness the horse race.  There’s something like 17 little neighborhoods in Siena which each enter a horse in the race and each has their own mascot.  There’s the porcupine and the goose and the rhino and even a snail neighborhood which seems like a poor choice of mascot for a sport entirely dependent on speed. But whatever.  So each neighborhood is clearly defined with their own flag and each territory is marked by signs on the buildings letting you know if you’re in goose-land or snail-land or porcupine-land.  Sounds pretty intense.  Unfortunately it was really, really cold when we were there so the city felt more like a ghost town but they did have some amazing churches to see.  One had St. Catherine of Siena’s head and right thumb on display.  Both are very old and far from mint condition but it was cool to see in a weird slightly creepy way.  At night the only place we could find that was open was an Irish pub.  Gotta love the Irish.  We got back to the ant farm later that night…Before going to bed we left a cookie for them in the corner thinking it would attract them all to the corner and therefore not to our beds.  Maybe not the best logic.  Well I think it worked.  The ants didn’t choose me as their midnight snack. But when we woke up that corner with the cookie was swarming with ants.  Pretty terrifying actually.  After disposing of the cookie we let the hotel staff know about the ant party in our room.

Next we said goodbye to the ants, hopefully for the last time, and hopped on the bus early in the morning.  We went to Pisa to see the leaning tower.  Very cool, totally crazy looking.  Its just funny to think that some bonehead architect didn’t build a good enough foundation and now they’re famous because of it.  There is also a church by the tower which is leaning a couple feet to the left and a baptistery in front of that which is leaning a couple feet right.  The Pisans say their ground is soft and that’s why all they’re buildings lean.  Ok.  Maybe put the Peronies down next time you start building.

The church has a chandelier hanging down from the tall ceiling and that’s what Galileo was looking at when he had some big epiphany about physics.  Pretty neat.  And the baptistery has the most amazing acoustics I’ve ever heard.   Every fifteen minutes the guard goes in the middle on a platform and sings a scale of notes.  When he stopped singing the sound just lingered for the longest time.  Very cool.  Besides that there is not much else in Pisa but the local tourist trap McDonalds that we gratefully fell into.  Next we went to Abruzzo, did a wine tasting then booked it back to Siena to check in on our ant friends.  They were much less prosperous.  Still a few stragglers but someone had busted up the ant fiesta pretty well.

The next day we went to Abruzzo which is a town with some churches and an old wall and not a whole lot else except for a Chinese restaurant that serves deep fried Nutella for dessert.  It was absolutely fantastic.  Thus concluded our tour of Tuscany.  We went back to Rome, had a standard week.

I woke up around six thirty on Saturday, hopped a tram to a bus to a metro to a train to Viterbo.   It’s a city a couple hours north of Rome by train.  Not much is there.  Me and a few guys went there to climb a mountain.  We kinda underestimated how far away the mountain was. So we walked up this road for a few hours and finally got to where we could try to hike up the mountain but there was two feet of snow on the ground.  So we tried anyway, woefully underequipped for such a trek and got halfway through this vineyard that was between the mountain and the road, until we decided to stop because it just wasn’t working.  We hunkered down near some vines and dawned our Peroni jackets and loitered for a bit in this back country vineyard.  Hiking down back to Viterbo we tried hitchhiking but unfortunately no one stopped.  Bummer.  But we got back to Rome in one piece.  I need to go study for a midterm now so ciao!